Recently I sat at a dinner table across from our Minister of Music Todd DuBose and his wife, Alicia. I referred to someone as a “ring-tailed tooter” and they had no idea what that was. I had used that phrase all my. life and had heard it used. Apparently it is just a local phrase. We Southerners have a language all our own. At least those of us who have passed at least our three score and ten (and almost four score) have heard it and have probably used it. I suppose it is English, but it is a Southern variation on accepted English.
(And by the way a ring-tailed tooter is a kid that will do anything he thinks of and is very talented and may cause problems wherever he goes and that is a dictionary definition) Just so you’ll know I’ll give you a sample of my Southern vocabulary.
Fix –When we say we are going home and fix supper we don’t mean repair it, we mean prepare it. Even though the repair shop does “fix” our broken car we don’t mean to do that to our supper.
Whatcha –someone calls on the phone and asks “Whatcha doing?” Translated they mean “what are you doing?”
From Cats to Dogs
Adam’s house cat – How about “I don’t know him from Adam’s house cat.” He really does not know the man at all, does he?
Druthers – And if I had my “druthers,” there would not be a war. Of course, that means you would prefer not to have a war.
Dog drunk – He was driving the car and he was dog drunk. That means he was really drunk.
Poor white trash and red neck – The people call them “poor white trash” or a “redneck.” All refer to a low class person.
Peert – She may be nearly 80 but she is still right “peert.” And that is a compliment meaning that she is still pretty quick to move around.
Yourn – Is that dog “yourn?” Translated that would mean is he your dog?
Under the Weather
Gully washer – That was a real ‘gully washer’ last night. The weatherman would say that it was a heavy rain.
Gourd – Quit doing that boy, use your gourd! Gourd meaning head.
Gals going to a meeting – They were dressed up like “gals going to a meeting.” Best clothes like we wear to church.
Cuda – I cuda told her how if she had asked. “Cuda” meaning could have.
Cramp colic – He died with the cramp-colic. At any rate he had a severe belly ache
Highfalutin or hifalutin – He thought he was too “highfalutin” to drive a truck. The American Heritage Dictionary defines this as being arrogant, pretentious, or pompous, or of a person who thinks too highly of himself
Sweet Patooty – She is his “sweet patooty.” That is one way of designating a girl friend.
“Keep your cotton-picking hands off my car!” – That translated means despicable, or wretched or trashy hands.
Coming up a cloud – It’s coming up a cloud. That means that a storm is approaching.
Moonshine and an Earnest Fight
Moonshine – He was making moonshine. That was illegal liquor or bootleg liquor.
They live just a hoot and a holler away. – Of course they mean nearby.
Well, I’ll be dawg! Just an exclamation – no special meaning just surprise.
He held his feet to the fire.– That is in reference to making somebody do something they just don’t want to do, but are forced to do.
Flittered – Scared her so bad she almost flittered. (Fainted!!)
Fleshened up – She sure has fleshened up since I last saw her. (Don’t tell her that because it means she has gotten fat!!)
He “never hit a lick,” and that means he was lazy and never tried to do anything.
A woods colt – an illegitimate child.
“Used to could” – such as you might say “She used to could milk a cow.”
Ager bumps – If you were cold or if you were frightened you might say you had “ager bumps” which is the same as goose bumps.
“I didn’t go to do it” – meaning that you did not intend to do it.
They commenced to fight in earnest. – That indicated that they started fighting hard.
Well, I guess you have heard all these and more phrases we southerners use. I suppose that they need translating to the present generation or to someone not native to this part of the country.
I don’t want to “aggrafret” you with a bunch of words that may not mean “diddly-squat” to you, and I sure don’t want you to “get your bowels in a boil,” but, “sugar-pie,” I did want you to know that I was not just “whistlin’ Dixie” when I said we had our own vocabulary.
Don’t you agree?
Juanita Agan submitted a weekly column to the Press-Herald for more than 15 years until her death in 2008. She was a resident of Minden since 1935. The Press-Herald is republishing select articles from Mrs. Agan’s Cameos column every Wednesday.